Mary Shaw Branton

Showing what a ‘lifetime of achievement’ looks like

Mary Shaw Branton

Name of League:  The Junior League of Kansas City

Causes/Issue Area(s):  Child Welfare, Diversity & Inclusion

Honors/Achievements: Impassioned advocacy for child welfare and integration in schools

What’s her impact?

Mary Shaw Branton, “Shawsie” to those lucky enough to know her, defines what it means to be a League member and to give a lifetime’s worth of service. Even now, having passed her 90th birthday, she continues to serve as the model of what voluntarism means.

Those who know her work have hailed her as a catalyst who changed the landscape—and the people—of Kansas City forever. A progressively minded innovator who sensed the need for a higher quality of care for children with disabilities back in the 1940s, she spearheaded the Cerebral Palsy Nursery School (which ultimately became known as Children’s Therapeutic Learning Center), long before the concept of special needs even entered our consciousness as a society.

In the 1950s, a full year before the Supreme Court’s historic ruling in Brown v. Topeka Board of Education, Shawsie persuaded the board of the nursery school to integrate its students, ahead of the Kansas City school district. In the 1970s, while serving on the board of Planned Parenthood, she worked as a fearless advocate for birth control, and in the 1993, at the age of 73, she became the first female chairman of the board of the Greater Kansas City YMCA.

In her six and a half decades of energetic service, Shawsie has served on more than 30 boards of directors, fighting tirelessly and compassionately for the realization of her belief that every person, regardless of circumstance, deserves a chance to succeed. Her responsibilities have included co-chairing the board for the Vision Research Center, serving on the advisory committees for both Children’s TLC and the Kaufmann Center for the Performing Arts, and sitting on the development committee at Bishop Spencer Place, a continuing care retirement community.